Opinion: Maitland/APCO deal reflects latest boom

Are the Barbarians back at the gates?

The expression comes from an influential business book - by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar - on the takeover frenzy that gripped Wall Street in the late 1980s. This lurid account of deal-makers, financial PROs and strategy meetings suddenly feels contemporary.

In just one day this week, £40bn changed hands during a flurry of takeovers. M&A activity is now hitting the levels of the late 80s or 90s - as reflected in PRWeek's 2006 Financial League tables

But there are some fresh characteristics that have big implications for the PR industry. Not least, of course, the high financial value of recent deals. This, and the fact that many involve companies from developing markets - such as China, Russia and India - means regulatory issues are more commonplace. All of which provides the context for PRWeek's exclusive story this week that financial specialist Maitland and PA expert APCO are forging a new type of strategic alliance. The idea is to offer an integrated City PR/PA solution that looks ‘best in class'.

As APCO president Margery Kraus points out, issues raised by regulators, policy makers and the public in the major global capitals are big factors in determining the success of corporate transactions. To be fair, City PR giants Brunswick and Financial Dynamics have been bolstering their PA nous for some time now, while College Hill recently set up a lobbying arm (PRWeek, 20 October). But the Maitland/APCO deal should look innovative to clients.

It is a fascinating time to work in this area. Cross-border deals are becoming more common and big firms from China and Russia are defining themselves from scratch among Western political and business audiences, often fighting damaging preconceptions.

Consultancy empires can be built here. But just like any empire, they must be aware of a potential end to this boom. The Barbarians are never far from the gates.

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